D&D 5E Minions with Damage Thresholds?

Clint_L

Hero
I appreciate your feedback! Quoted you together, because my response pertains to both excellent points.

This is a work in progress for a 15th+ level adventure, so very likely the "final form" of these critters will be modified based on these discussions and playtesting.

But to respond based on my original thought process... I wanted the Damage Threshold to be more than average damage from a PC's sword strike (something like 1d8+5...or 9.5...which is how I ended up with the Damage Threshold 10 for the Firenewt Minion & Mamluk Minion). Any damage less than 10 would be ignored.

Unless..... And this is where the conditions come in to address (partially) your concern about the monk.... Though I agree as I have it now the monk would definitely have a harder time fighting these by themself than other PCs...

Slippery Foe. The firenewt takes no damage from an attack, spell, or effect that deals less than 10 damage, unless it is cold damage. While the firenewt is unable to move, it loses this trait.

How could the monk get the firenewt to be unable to move? (1) Stunning Strike or (2) using one of their extra attacks to Grapple and then strike the grappled firenewt.

That's kind of a punting answer because I'm assuming a 5th+ level PC (getting back to the context being a high-level adventure), and it doesn't address the real frustration this would present to a monk player facing the monster at 1st-4th level.
Even at higher levels, I think if I was a monk player I would feel kind of ripped off to have to use a stunning strike or grapple before I could even damage a minion - this seems like the opposite of what your system is designed for. Monk was just one example; I think the fundamental issue is that thresholds really punish anyone relying on bunches of weak attacks and reward anyone who relies on fewer but harder hitting attacks. So that seems like a basic design problem stemming from the fundamental way 5e is built. Tricky.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Even at higher levels, I think if I was a monk player I would feel kind of ripped off to have to use a stunning strike or grapple before I could even damage a minion - this seems like the opposite of what your system is designed for. Monk was just one example; I think the fundamental issue is that thresholds really punish anyone relying on bunches of weak attacks and reward anyone who relies on fewer but harder hitting attacks. So that seems like a basic design problem stemming from the fundamental way 5e is built. Tricky.
You could make the threshold based on total damage taken on one creature’s turn instead of damage taken from an individual attack. I suppose that could be functionally reproduced with hit points and a variation of regeneration that triggers at the end of each creature’s turn instead of the end of every round.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
You could make the threshold based on total damage taken on one creature’s turn instead of damage taken from an individual attack. I suppose that could be functionally reproduced with hit points and a variation of regeneration that triggers at the end of each creature’s turn instead of the end of every round.
Actually, I think you could do a Troll Minion using something along those lines.

Part of the fun of this experiment is taking the principles (damage threshold) and then tweaking it to feel unique to the particular type of monster.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I know @Clint_L mentioned monk's Flurry of Blows already, but this matches spells like Magic Missile or some ranged builds. I was going for turning the complexity dial down as much as possible without hitting "handwavium" (happy with handwavium for home games, just my context with this is different), but I can see how there might be corner cases where some kind of additive damage is allowed within the context of that turn. For example: "If the firenewt would take less than 10 damage in a turn, it takes no damage, unless it is cold damage. While the firenewt is unable to move, it loses this trait."

You can see my hesitation because that's getting close to tracking hit points...
Ya know, a simple (and maybe even elegant) solution just came to me:

No matter what the attack type, damage source, or die size, if the damage rolled when attacking a minion is higher than the average for that roll, the minion dies. So, if your attack does d8 damage and the natural roll on the die is 5 or more, down it goes; if your attack does d4 and you roll 3 or 4, down it goes; and so on.

This means every attack of any kind has, more or less, a 50-50 chance of killing a minion, and gets around the can't-do-enough-damage-to-matter issue.

Of course, this would force people into rolling damage rather than using the pre-set average, but IMO that would be a pleasant side-effect rather than a bug.
Hah, nice catch! That is silly. But! It also helps showcase what I'm aiming for with this Damage Threshold idea being curated/artfully applied to emphasize the FEEL of each monster. For example...

Slayer Minions are trained to be sneaky opponents who don't come at you directly, who can drop down from 40 foot ledges onto their victims, who can walk through mundane fires and even some magical ones unscathed, and whose weakness is if they are ever caught off guard (e.g. cannot take reactions due to being surprised, lured into making an opportunity attack, paralyzed, stunned, Shocking Grasp, Slow, Confuse, Arms of Hadar, Staggering Smite, Mind Whip, Dominated to use its reaction), etc.
Using my roll-above-average idea gets around this too, though it would quickly lead to other issues.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I'm not sure what the problem is the houserule is attempting to solve.

Do you feel that minions without a threshold are too disposable? I mean....that's kind of the point isn't it? Minions are literally just cannon fodder, meant to soak a spell or a few hits, and make the players feel badass all the while. So what if a fireball kills 10 of them....again that's kind of the point, that player will feel great for the rest of the session. If they are dying too quick, just add more!
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I'm not sure what the problem is the houserule is attempting to solve.

Do you feel that minions without a threshold are too disposable? I mean....that's kind of the point isn't it? Minions are literally just cannon fodder, meant to soak a spell or a few hits, and make the players feel badass all the while. So what if a fireball kills 10 of them....again that's kind of the point, that player will feel great for the rest of the session. If they are dying too quick, just add more!
Sure! Your question is "why not use simple 1 hit point minions and be done with it?" That's simpler certainly!

I have three clusters of answers: Objections (problems to address), Creative Play Encouragement (positive goals to move towards), and Player-Facing Rules (happy side effects). I suspect you have not encountered the same objections I have, but you might see value in the other categories.

To be clear, I'm assuming the counterargument "minion" is just a monster with 1 hp.

Objections: There's 3 objections I have come across (both from players & from me) in my experiments with minions across 4e and 5e, and this experiment with damage threshold is attempting to address those in a way that opens up some creativity...

1) "My damage is "wasted" on minions." This was a player complaint – sort of the opposite of @Clint_L 's feedback about my house rule disfavoring monks – that heavy hitter PCs weren't as valuable against minions. Basically, by taking HP completely out of the equation, players with PCs doing high-damage felt they weren't able to contribute as meaningfully.

2) All minions go down equally, irrespective of the monster being modeled (i.e. 2 damage takes down the firenewt minion or the ogre minion). That can lead to cognitive dissonance for some players/groups – why is the big bulky ogre dropped as easily as the sinewy firenewt? Similarly, a fire bolt dealing 2 damage could kill a firenewt minion – and that's working against the expectation we have that "firenewts are resistant to fire damage." This was both a player complaint and my complaint as the GM.

3) Minion-clearing tactics influenced by meta-game, rather than story. For minions, it doesn't matter whether they roll a saving throw against an effect dealing half damage, so spells like burning hands suddenly are more valuable against minions. They just die. Same thing with auto-damage effects (Magic Missile, Cloud of Daggers, etc). This was my complaint as the GM.

Creative Play Encouragement: All of the above led to a certain repetition of strategy when the players were facing minions. At first, it was novel, but when it became repeated the excitement of using minions quickly lost its luster. In trying to kill two-birds-with-one-stone, I also wanted these "minion traits" to provide interesting weaknesses / workarounds for players that emphasized the minion monster's story, in an effort to break up the repetitive strategies I've seen in past experiments using minions.

Player-facing Rules: Finally, in the back of my mind - not immediate to my project - I was thinking about how my damage threshold minion experiment might benefit longevity of the game on the player side... For example, this "damage threshold" concept could be used as an easier way to manage a PC's conjured critters without making them feel like fragile piñatas.
 

the Jester

Legend
I use minions fairly extensively in 5e, and have designed a bunch of mechanics to make them slightly durable, including basically what you're describing. It seems to work fine. Also, my players love them.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
2) All minions go down equally, irrespective of the monster being modeled (i.e. 2 damage takes down the firenewt minion or the ogre minion). That can lead to cognitive dissonance for some players/groups – why is the big bulky ogre dropped as easily as the sinewy firenewt? Similarly, a fire bolt dealing 2 damage could kill a firenewt minion – and that's working against the expectation we have that "firenewts are resistant to fire damage." This was both a player complaint and my complaint as the GM.
That has ALWAYS been an issue with minions if your players are the types who notice it and have trouble with it. And I honestly think there is no version of the minion rules that will sufficiently address it. Perhaps setting them at minimum hit points (1 hp per die) will suffice to make them easier for a high level PC to kill without much bookkeeping and yet still offer differentiation between minions?
 

the Jester

Legend
I'm not sure what the problem is the houserule is attempting to solve.

Do you feel that minions without a threshold are too disposable? I mean....that's kind of the point isn't it? Minions are literally just cannon fodder, meant to soak a spell or a few hits, and make the players feel badass all the while. So what if a fireball kills 10 of them....again that's kind of the point, that player will feel great for the rest of the session. If they are dying too quick, just add more!
I use defensive abilities on minions, including damage thresholds, when I want them to be higher level minions or when they're quick and dirty versions of high level monsters whose CR is significantly derived from their defensive abilities.
 


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